Loose Ends: Words, like clothes, go in and out of fashion

“Dude” is one old-fashioned word that has become modern. It is now back in fashion, but the new meaning has nothing to do with the word that was bandied about in the early days of this community. When it was first used, it was not considered a form of address. Mostly it was said in a derogatory fashion, as in, “I took the only shotgun left in camp by the dudes.” The word tenderfoot usually followed that type of reference.“Persuader” described an object used as a tool, not a weapon. Fans of movies about the Old West maintain that they know the true meaning of the word, as the movies always showed the lawmen using their “persuaders” to convince the bad guys to go running. Yet in all the stories of local oldtimers, the word describes the stick or switch used to prod a balky animal forward.The county surveyor’s job kept him “on the jump,” a phrase that sounds like it evolved from the early days of water rights and mining claim disputes.“Frontier” is a word usually used by a historical organization, such as the Preserving the Last Frontier group in northwestern Colorado. But as talk of recommitting to the development of the vast oil shale reserves heats up once again, it is interesting that a 50-year-old headline from the Meeker Herald was cited in a recent Herald Times Rio Blanco County Days Gone By column: “Oil Shale-A New Frontier Beckons.”There are some words that fall out of style, disappearing for a number of years before returning in a new form, while others are hardly ever heard again. A “granger” was a cattle rancher. The word was used in the earliest days to describe the job of a cowman. It is a word that has gone out of fashion. Unlike clothing merchandisers, wordsmiths don’t have much impact on which words come and which words go. With the digital age, the invention of words to stand for others seems to represent the new frontier in communication. Now it is hard to tell if a word is really the same word, as the spelling and usage blur the meaning. Maybe someone will form a new kind of organization dedicated to keeping it simple. Can’t you see it now — Saving Our Words? Of course not too many folks would admit to joining a group called SOW.